The government has taken up a project under the ‘Twelve Important Waterways Dredging Project’ to dredge the Meghna-Gumti riverine route, at a cost of some Tk. 16 crore. A 40-km stretch of the Meghna and Gumti rivers will be dredged at long last, and 10 lakh cubic metres of silt will be removed in phases. Goods-laden vessels are facing navigability problems on the Meghna and Gumti waterways, as the water levels fall to around four feet from 10 feet during the dry season. As a result, many industrial units that ferry fertilisers and fuel have to spend extra to transport their goods on small vessels instead of the bigger ones when water scarcity occurs during the dry season. For years, rivers and rivulets have been drying up, thanks to the absolute apathy on the part of the authorities to dredge these waterways to remove sedimentation. This has turned out to be a bonanza for land-grabbers under the big Daudkandi bridge, which links Dhaka with Chittagong, the commercial capital of Bangladesh.
“From the economy’s point of view, the Meghna-Gumti water route is very important. Goods are ferried between Chittagong via Narayanganj to Dhaka by this route. Vessels cannot move during the dry season on this route when they are around seven feet or above. So, we have taken up the first phase of this project to dredge this channel on a priority basis,” project director Mohammad Tariqul Hasan, who is also an executive engineer of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), told The Independent.
A total of two lakh cubic metres of silt will be removed at a cost of Tk. 3 crore at areas under the Daudkandi bridge under the project, and shipping minister Shajahan Khan is scheduled to inaugurate the dredging work on Sunday, he said.
“The depth of water will increase and vessels will be able to smoothly move during the dry season after the dredging is completed by December. Now the water depth stands at four to five feet during the dry season. It would increase to 10 feet after the dredging. Besides, the width of the channel will also be increased to 120 feet (37 metres),” Hasan added.
Besides, goods-laden vessels can be easily loaded or unloaded—and berthed—after completion of the work, he further said. He also expressed his hope that the government would be able to earn more revenue through this water route as well.
The BIWTA took up two mega projects in July 2012—Capital Dredging of 53 River Routes in Inland Waterways and Dredging of 12 Important River Routes—to restore the navigability of the country’s water routes and upgrade the waterways, at a cost of Tk. 1,873.64 crore. According to the BIWTA, waterways are shrinking rapidly across the country. Currently, some 5,500 km of waterways are navigable during the rainy season and around 3,000 km in the dry season.